"The Golden Beach"

A short story by SouthPawRacer

As the sun dipped behind the sparse, fluffy clouds, the beach was bathed in a vivid, golden light that seemed to give everything a saturated, orange glow. There was a soft wind blowing North up the coast that kicked up ever so small clouds of sand, shifting the dunes and etching wavy patterns where the sand gave way to scrub and tall grass.

As the man stood on the lookout above the beach, the scene struck him as beautiful and haunting. More so haunting, because of the sheer emptiness of it all. Not a single human being in sight, or anywhere, for that matter.

He turned away from the golden sunset and considered the line of waterfront houses that lay before him, most as good as new; but to say that there was a single soul enjoying these fine properties would be to tell a lie. No-one living inside of them, no-one preparing dinner, no-one sitting on their front porches toasting the end of another day, no young couples walking down the beachfront holding hands. Not anymore. He was the only one left after The Great Flash.

He had been paranoid enough, fortunate enough, to have seen it coming. The news reports, the hints dropped by politicians, his painstaking research and theorizing, all of them had mixed together in his mind and set the alarm bells off. Initially he had pleaded others to join him, but they considered him a madman. Realising the futility of his actions, he had resigned himself to abandoning them. They had continued to laugh and jest as he locked himself in his basement, which was the only one on the waterfront, and waited it out. Then, eventually, the ground shook. He walked out of his house when he thought it was safe enough to do so, only to find that the cataclysm had resulted in so much, and yet left so little. That "little", in human terms at least, consisted of him and him alone. Nobody was laughing anymore.

The Great Flash had disabled all things electrical and mechanical, and besides no machines or cars, there was also no means of keeping fresh food fresh. He had to find cans where he could, and sometimes try and get something from the nearby ocean. Fish, crabs, birds since everyone else was gone, they were plentiful and unafraid.

He turned to the left, looking North. What lay before him was his work done so far, the spruced-up houses and the clean coastal road. His mouth contorted into a grim smile. The coastal road. That had taken the longest to clean up. The debris left after The Great Flash was so great in its quantity that he didn't have the tools to get the job done quickly; after all, there was no working heavy machinery left. So, before he started repairing the houses, he had cleared the road by hand, bit by bit.

Cleaning up the mess that had resulted from The Great Flash, and renovating the lifeless beachfront properties, was all he could do to keep his mind off things. Of course, he didn't have to, but what else was he to do? Hole up in his basement again and drive himself insane? Hardly.

After admiring his existing handiwork for a few seconds, or minutes, or maybe even half an hour; he didn't know anymore; he decided to turn a full one hundred and eighty degrees and behold the great task that lay before him one last time, before taking refuge in the house he was standing in front of, his most recent accomplishment.

Stretching down the empty coast was many suburbs' worth of urban sprawl, building up to a vaguely-visible metropolis of skyscrapers in the distance, glinting from the sinking sun. When it came up again in the morning, he would continue the cleanup job. No matter how long it took, he would move South, entering every one of these buildings, one at a time. He would cautiously enter, sweep away the piles of ash that were once his fellow human beings, patch up the cracks in the walls, stay for a while and then leave the building as spotless as the day it was built.

Ambling into the house as the sun finally dipped below the horizon, he didn't feel as if he was wasting his time.

After all, he had all the time in the world.